Swiss artist Andre Quirinus Zurbiggen has amassed an extraordinary collection of stones from his home in the Swiss Alps.
Collected over a period of 10 years, the stones have markings on them that form a complete alphabet, with both upper and lower case letters.
Art within nature
“Even if it’s only a small stone in my hand, if I pick it up, I have a stone. If I put it down, it becomes a symbol, and, finally, words and language,” Andre explained.
“I view art as less about the production of something identically new, and much more about the appreciation of that which already exists, but which we haven’t yet consciously noticed.”
Since Andre took the time to notice the unique stones, they have been made into an interactive stone font which can be used to write anything, and then print, save or share with friends via email and social media. Check out the ones we made below.
But Andre is not the first to have discovered literacy within nature. Norwegian born Kjell Sandved spent 14 years, between 1960 and 1974, photographing butterflies and moths, in a search for markings that represented letters and numbers.
The idea first came to Kjell when he was at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and he viewed a butterfly in their collection with a perfectly formed letter “F” on its wing. Kjell commented that it couldn’t have been more beautifully written by a calligrapher.
As he went in search for butterflies with special markings, Kjell noticed that the most frequently occurring signs and numbers on the wings of butterflies were C, D, F, I, L and M. More difficult to find were letters such as B, H, K, Q, T, X, plus signs and symbols.
After many adventures, and many miles traveled, Kjell’s Butterfly Alphabet poster was unveiled in the first 1975 spring edition of Smithsonian.
The poster created a nationwide interest in a new phenomenon: protection of butterfly habitats, “butterfly gardening,” and eventually the introduction of children’s butterfly garden programs in the American school system.
The posters and other butterfly alphabet merchandise are still available to purchase today, and are a special way to teach children about nature, literacy and numeracy.
Building collections is a rewarding hobby for kids of all ages – why not start your own stone collection or photographic quest in your family? Or does your family already collect something – perhaps coins, stamps or something unusual?